Reflections from Studio23

I recently attended Studio23Reignite your teaching and facilitation practice“, an in-person event organized by BC Campus and held in Vancouver, BC.

There was a time when I didn’t need to specify “in person”. Now, it matters! In fact, this was a major draw for me: I relished the thought of being with colleagues in the same physical location, interacting, and learning together.

This BC Campus event was terrific! And, before too much time goes by, I wanted to capture some of the reasons I enjoyed it so much and some of the learning. The two are interconnected.

Surprise & Delight

I was surprised in a good way, multiple times. For example, the opening address and land acknowledgment by Alice Guss, from the Squamish Nation, had us flapping our wings, being foxes, jumping like whales and building community from the get-go. (more delights in the bullets below).

I also deeply appreciated all the attention to inclusion, such as: a quiet room, a special care kit for anyone who might be feeling sensory overload, blankets for those of us who are always cold. Plus the more standard approaches: friendly, food requests, space between sessions, some sessions online.

Learning & More Delight

Kathi Camilleri, the Day 1 Keynote, told stories in such a flowing way and with humour — reminding us that we know how to “do village” and, therefore, we know how to contribute to a decolonized system.

I loved, loved the Improvisation for Life session led by Sarah Louise Turner and Sanders Whiting. They made it fun and relevant. Normally terrified of improv, they showed me I don’t need to be.

Carrie Nolan, the Day 2 Keynote, shared about Joy as an Antidote. Not a ho-hum session by any stretch. We played a creative alternative –and full auditorium game of — rock, paper, scissors. She reminded us about “connection before content” as she shared about her own personal experience of the “contour-less” period around COVID.


Creativity was infused throughout the Studio–this stood out. One session where this was central was Kat Thorson‘s “Creative Engagement” where she facilitated us drawing an owl. She took us through the process, shape by shape and helped us see how, within a short time, we could put the parts together and create.

That’s a quick snapshot of some of what I enjoyed. There was more. But I gave myself 30 minutes to write and now time is up!

Credit: The feature image is from the Studio23 website where the content is Creative Commons Licensed.

October 2023 ChatGPT Challenge

I’ve decided to set myself a challenge for this month: to experiment with, and learn about, ChatGPT.

Background: I’ve been burying my head in the sand when it comes to ChatGPT. Mostly due to overwhelm…However, the enthusiasm of some of my colleagues at CTLT has finally rubbed off on me, and I’m now eager to play and learn –and see how I can apply this tool in my educational development work.

Below is a record of things I’ve tried and ways I’ve pursued my learning during this self-imposed ChatGPT #30daychallenge.

October 2: Listened to Tea for Teaching episode on ChatGPT:

  • What stood out: The guest used ChatGPT to write his book and was totally upfront about that. I didn’t expect that.

October 3: Asked it to improve an email I had composed.

  • Result was ok. Some good suggestions.

October 4: I entered in a question that was phrased in a boring manner and asked it to list 5 more creative alternatives.

  • I received fun, creative suggestions. I picked one of the suggestions.

October 5: Watched a video on how to use ChatGPT to generate descriptions for a YouTube video.

  • I have created an instructional video that is an introduction to teaching dossiers and one of my next steps is to create a description.

October 6: Entered in text and asked it to come up with some possible titles

  • Titles generated were super dull. I didn’t use the suggestions and didn’t continue to prompt it.

October 10: Generated a description for YouTube videos on Teaching Dossier

  • The text generated is cheesy, but it gave me a base to start from. I don’t think it saved me time overall.

October 11: Got help with HTML

  • I was trying to put a box around some text in WordPress and asked ChatGPT for help. Success!

October 12:  Tried out Canva’s Magic’s Design

  • It was helpful and definitely saved me time. I am not talented–at all–when it comes to design.

October 16: Attempted to put information into a 2-column table

  • I wasn’t successful with this one. I was trying to format a table of contents (from a PDF) so that the page numbers would be right justified. I wasn’t able to figure this one out.

October 17: Generated emojis for a list

October 18: Played around with getting help with session design.

  • Not satisfied with results.

October 23: Attended “Approaches to Prompting (30+30)” (CTLT online event)

  • Take away: I need to get better at prompting. I think my poor prompting strategies are the reason I’m not satisfied with many of the results I’m getting.

October 25: Played around with prompting

  • I’m quite impatient and still getting sub-optimal results. I should read the resource from the workshop I attended on Oct 23 (and apply the strategies).

October 26: Got it to revise an existing bio and then asked why it had made the suggested changes.

  • The explanations were clear and helpful. I like understanding the why behind edits!


My 30-day challenge is a wrap! And, there’s so much more to learn. I’m going to keep tracking some of that learning here.

A table that outlines AI tools that some of CTLT staff are using:

Want to try still:

  • images
  • (recommended by Jens)

6 tips for starting a mastermind group in higher education

people participating in a facilitated meetingOver the past few years, I have participated in and facilitated several different types of mastermind groups (MMG) within and outside of higher education. (If you are not sure what a MMG is, see my earlier post here).

Most recently, I designed and co-facilitated an in-person MMG for educators in the first-year experience (FYE). The group was open to anyone who identified as an educator of students who are in their first year of an undergraduate degree. In this particular offering, there were 9 participants and the group was comprised of faculty members and staff at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver campus).

Given my positive experience with MMG, and the growing interest within the POD Network, I wanted to share some resources that will help you start your own.

Tips for the set-up phase

Here is a list of tips I have compiled to make the facilitator’s life easier in the setup phase:

1. Be as clear as possible about the purpose of the MMG when you advertise it. See here for how we articulated the purpose and structure for the MMG for FYE. In your introductory text, you may wish to:

  • define what a MMG is and isn’t (and, possibly, address some people’s aversion to the term?)
  • briefly explain what a spotlight is since it is a key feature of MMG

2. Once you have determined the purpose of your MMG, decide on the number of meetings and frequency of your meetings. We found that 4 meetings, every 2 weeks, worked well for this MMG. Meeting every 2 weeks allow the group’s energy to be sustained without overwhelming people with weekly commitments.

3. Set meeting dates/times ahead of time if (like me) you have an aversion to Doodle polls and to spending a lot of time trying to accommodate multiple people’s schedules. I found it easier to have the dates/times (and room bookings) pre-determined so that potential participants could easily ascertain whether they were available.

4. Begin to advertise the MMG approximately 2 months before the start date. This will give you a chance to promote it, answer questions from interested parties, and will augment the chances that people can block off the time in their calendar.

5. Consider a 2-step application process. For the MMG for Educators in the FYE, the first step asked potential participants to confirm that they could make 3 of the 4 meetings and that they were, in fact, actively involved in the FYE. The second step allowed me to reach back out to people and clarify anything that needed clarification and/or to immediately “accept” their application. See here for the wording/messaging that appeared on the CTLT website.

6. Specify whether the group is closed or open and who (if anyone) has permission to invite other participants. My preference is for a closed group that is consistent throughout the duration of the MMG.

I will be sharing more in a future post. If you have any questions, please reach out to me at isabeau(dot)iqbal(at)ubc(dot)ca. I am sure I’ve forgotten some details that would be helpful to others.

Connected Teaching (short book review)

This post was written for “What we’re reading“, a feature in the UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology’s Dialogues newsletter.

It is a short review of “Connected Teaching” by Harriet Schwartz, PhD.

Book cover for Connected Teaching by Harriet Schwartz


In post-secondary teaching and learning, relationships matter.

They matter as much as (and possibly more than) course design, proper use of technology and other elements we typically associate with promoting understanding and “good teaching.”

Given my interest in the role of emotions in teaching and learning, I was eager to read Connected Teaching by Harriet Schwartz, PhD.

This book addresses the significance of the connection between students and faculty members and explores “teaching as a relational practice.” Drawing from Relational Cultural Theory (a theory Schwartz helps her reader learn about throughout the book), the author argues that “we are at our best when we have the capacity to engage and maintain growth-fostering relationships”. These relationships need not be long-term and can occur even in a single meaningful interaction.

Connected teaching, Schwartz describes, consists of five elements: energy, knowledge, sense of worth, action and desire for more connection. She proposes that care, presence, invitation and enthusiasm are essential elements of connected teaching because they convey to students that they matter and that their challenges are real.

What I especially appreciated about this book is that Schwartz does not depict connection as an easy process or a given. She writes honestly about disconnection, power, shame, blind spots and boundaries. That is, she is upfront about the challenges involved as we aim to build connection(s) with our learners.

What remains most with me about this book is Schwartz’s compelling messages about mattering and how it is central to connected teaching. Her work echoes other scholars’ work (see, for example, The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most by Felten et al.), who have highlighted the importance of creating a sense of belonging to student learning. To “matter,” reminds Schwartz, is to feel we have a place in others’ lives, and our presence makes a difference to them.

If you are keen to explore the role of connection in teaching and learning, I recommend Connected Teaching.

Interested in learning more about Connected Learning before reading the book? Listen to this Teaching in Higher Ed podcast episode where Harriet Schwartz discusses her book.

Schwartz, H. L. (2019). Connected Teaching: Relationship, Power, and Mattering in Higher Education. Stylus Publishing, LLC.

Teaching philosophy statements – Q&A with faculty members

I facilitated a short session on teaching philosophy statements (TPS) for participants in the Teaching Development Program (TDP) for New Faculty.

Based on requests from the TDP cohort members, I focussed specifically on:

  1. Looking at examples of strong TPSs
  2. Identifying belief statements in the opening and body of the 4 selected TPS samples
  3. Identifying alignment between beliefs and statements of evidence (evidence being “how I enact my beliefs”).

During the session, participants asked a number of questions. I have captured these questions and my brief responses below in case they may be helpful to others.

Q: How do I make my TPS different from other people’s TPSs? I’m worried that mine will read like everybody else’s.

ii: I guarantee that your TPS will be unique! Because you bring your own experiences, your disciplinary background, and your own content to the TSP—not to mention your personal writing style—it will read differently than your peers’ EVEN if you share similar beliefs.

Q: How many beliefs is too many or too few to include in a TPS?

ii: There is no specific number of beliefs that a reader expects to see in a TPS. Thinking in terms of themes may be helpful; you may want to use headers to guide your reader.

Q: How much do we need to ground our TPS in research/literature, or is it truly what I think and have done?

ii: The emphasis should be on what you think and have done. However, it is considered good practice to integrate a few references to the pedagogical literature as this shows that you take a scholarly approach to your teaching.

Q: Is it better to err on the side of using general terms or providing specific examples? For example, does it suffice to say that I use experiential education approaches or should be get specific?

ii: My preference is for the author to include a few specific examples that help me “see” them in action. If, for example, you use “experiential education” in your teaching, provide a specific example as evidence for how it aligns with your beliefs about teaching and learning and/or your beliefs about knowledge.

Q: Is it good practice to provide excerpts and detailed examples of what we’ve done?

Detailed examples will go into your appendices or in the Teaching Activities section of your dossier.

Q: Should we include a future looking statement?

ii: Many people highlight their goals and commitment to continuous growth in their teaching philosophy statement. Some people have it in the TPS and as a section of their teaching dossier. I like seeing a short version in the TPS and a more expanded version in the full dossier. Again, that’s my preference. It doesn’t mean that’s the “right” way to do it.

Q: Do I need to provide a summary statement in my TPS?

No, you don’t.